Jan 28, 2008
Muslim youths urged to seek Muis' guidance
Muis will use rational debate to address their views: Yaacob
By Zakir Hussain
DR YAACOB Ibrahim has this message for young Muslims who may be drawn to radical ideas: Don't wait till it's too late.
He urged them to approach the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) to clarify their doubts early without fear of repercussions.
'We want to embrace you, help you, guide you, not put you in jail,' said the Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs at a constituency event yesterday.
'We want to understand what your views are so we can discuss and debate rationally, so you understand where we are coming from... that these ideologies are not healthy.'
He was speaking to reporters on the recent arrest of two 26-year-olds for planning acts of terror.
They had become radicalised not through contact with terror groups but, like a new breed of 'do-it-yourself' or DIY radicals, through publications, videos and websites.
The pair, Muhammad Zamri Abdullah and Maksham Mohd Shah, nursed radical beliefs as early as 2003 and were detained last month.
They had gone abroad to try to join militant networks and fight in places like Afghanistan, ready to die as martyrs.
Another 26-year-old, who had fallen under their influence, was issued with a restriction order limiting his activities.
Dr Yaacob, who is also Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, said he was 'disappointed' and 'unhappy' these three had crossed the line, but the community had to be realistic as it was impossible to monitor the Internet. The community could help to minimise the occurrence of such cases, however.
He urged young Muslims who are interested in Islam to call the Mufti's office at Muis or recognised teachers for guidance, instead of developing extreme views.
He said: 'We have a group of young religious teachers coming out from the universities, very attuned to the modern world, comfortable with the English language.'
Like other community leaders, Dr Yaacob called on parents, families and friends to guide those they know who may have, through the Internet or books, developed such ideas that do not gel with how Islam is practised here.
DIY radicalism, he said, is 'a phenomenon which will persist for a long time, therefore we must be on our guard'.
The Internal Security Department and Malay-Muslim MPs have engaged community leaders to help deal with this challenge, he added.
'There is no more denial that there is a problem, a challenge. The sooner we bring the information to them, the better they trust us, therefore they can help us with this particular challenge.'
Four leading religious bodies also issued a statement on Saturday expressing concern over the recent arrests, saying they 'underline the need for continued vigilance on our part to stamp out terrorism'.
The leaders of the Singapore Buddhist Lodge, the Singapore Catholic Archdiocese, the Hindu Endowments Board and Muslim group Jamiyah Singapore said: 'We will not allow the trust and confidence that has been built up among the various races in Singapore to be undermined by such activities.'